A quick investigation by Maricopa County elections officials Friday put an end to allegations of massive voter fraud in the Scottsdale fire service issue.
Scottsdale firefighters asked election officials to check into the matter late Thursday after county figures appeared to show huge surges in requests for early ballots in five precincts.
County elections director Karen Osborne said the problem arose when a list of registered voters in those districts was mistakenly blended into a list of people who had requested early ballots in other precincts.
“We can assure you that this is not a wholesale issue of people requesting ballots for someone else. That simply did not happen,” Osborne told the Tribune. “It is a false alarm.”
Elections officials were trying to contact leaders of both sides of the issue to inform them of the findings late Friday, she said.
The firefighters’ political consultant, Tom Milton, managing partner of Phoenix-based Cantelme and Kaasa, LLC, said he has a lot of questions about how county officials could have mixed the numbers.
Scottsdale voters will be asked on May 20 whether they favor forming a municipal fire service that would replace contract fire services firm Rural/Metro Corp.
Campaigning and accusations by both sides have become increasingly volatile in recent weeks.
On Friday morning, firefighters held a news conference to show evidence of what they said appeared to be “systematic, widespread and serious” voter fraud.
The apparent irregularities were identified by campaign consultants for the union-backed Committee to Protect Scottsdale and Our Firefighters, which supports creation of a municipal fire department.
The consultants noticed what appeared to be sharp spikes in requests from the five precincts with names that begin with the letter “D” — Deer Valley, Deerview, Del Joya, Diamond and Dreyfus. Overall, there are 82 precincts.
Figures supplied by county elections officials showed a gradual decline in the number of requests for early ballots during a three-week period in all but five of the other 77 precincts.
However, in the five “D” precincts, the number of requests for early ballots appeared to increase by the hundreds from April 22-28.
For instance, in the Dreyfus precinct, the number of requests for early ballots appeared to increase from 44 requests on April 17, to 100 on April 22, to 1,717 requests on April 28.
In comparison, in the next precinct alphabetically, Exeter, the weekly numbers of requests went from 14 to 85 to two.
The inaccurate counts were contained in files county elections officials had supplied to the Scottsdale city clerk, who in turn provided them to the firefighters and Rural/Metro, Osborne said.
“We looked at the files that we had given her and then we were able to see very quickly what we had done,” Osborne said.
The huge numbers of voters in question had not requested early ballots, nor had they been mailed early ballots, Osborne said. The master files kept by the county are accurate, she said.
Kurt Krumperman, president of Rural/Metro fire and emergency services, said he was glad there were no issues found and that the firefighters did the right thing, though he said the news conference was premature.
"They were right. There were irregularities and they should have reported it. There was a mistake made by somebody," Krumperman said. "But the press conference threw it in a different light.
"I think the citizen's committee is looking to portray Rural/Metro and its contract with the city in a negative light and may have been trying to make something out of this."
Representatives of the committee could not be reached for comment by the Tribune.